Friday, 20 July 2018

Basics of Child Custody

Basics of Child Custody

Few divorce decisions are as emotionally fraught as those involving custody of minor children. Divorcing spouses who agree on other issues can quickly reach an impasse where children are involved.

Too often, protracted custody battles are thinly disguised attempts to manipulate support obligations , deny equal parental rights, or alienate a child from a non-custodial parent.

While you and your spouse can make custody agreements and visitation arrangements on your own, litigated custody disputes turn those decisions over to a judge who does not know your family. As one of the best family law firm in Utah, our practice daily handles tough custody cases for clients from all walks of life. These parents retain us to fight for the best interests of their children—and for their future. You should make sure you get a child custody lawyer to help you whenever you have an issue like this come up.

Two questions to be addressed concern legal and physical custody, defined as follows:

  • Legal custody is the right to make or be involved in major decisions concerning your child on matters of health, education, and welfare
  • Physical custody is the right for a child to reside with you and receive your physical care

Along with recommendations from the law guardian for your child, a judge will review best interest factors to make a physical custody decision that may look like one of the following:

  • Sole custody with one custodial parent, and one parent receiving visitation rights
  • Joint physical custody where a child resides with both parents—not necessarily for equal periods of time

Childhood is brief, but its scars can last a lifetime. If you have custody issues, retain a skilled attorney and fight for your child while you can still make a difference.

How Does Remarriage Affect Older Children?

Many people expect there to be some growing pains when getting remarried with minor children in the picture. However, many of these same transitional and emotional issues can also be a factor if you or your spouse have any older children.

While older children are going to be better able to emotionally process the transition, they are still human and still could very well have complicated feelings about the marriage. You should be prepared to notice and address any of the following issues:

  • Strong loyalty to their “original” family: Your adult children will want to maintain a strong family identity. This means it can be difficult to immediately accept a new stepparent and everything that comes with it, including uprooting long-established family traditions, celebrations and holidays.
  • Feelings of homesickness: While your adult children no longer live at home with you, there is still something that might be lost to them in the transition, beyond your relationship. To them, going home might no longer feel like they’re actually at home, and that can be difficult to process at first. They will miss the feelings of the home they knew as children, with both of their parents living in it together.
  • Difficulty managing time with grandchildren: You might find that your children harbor some feelings of resentment that their children, your grandchildren, will suddenly have to welcome a new face into their life, or that time has to be split even more broadly among grandparents.
  • Jealousy: Even adult children are susceptible to feeling jealous, or as though they’ve been “replaced” by a new spouse. Suddenly a new stepparent comes in and has captured your heart and energy — it’s natural for them to feel jealous.

Free Consultation with Child Custody Lawyer

If you have a question about child custody question or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Joint Wills

As a probate lawyer, I often get asked questions about wills and trusts. Usually, you and your spouse will want to make a will together to leave the entire estate to each other and eventually to your children. While it is not the only way, a joint will allows one spouse to inherit the entire estate upon the death of the other spouse. However, you will need to carefully balance many factors to determine if creating a joint will is the best option for you. Read on to learn about joint wills, their legal effects, and potential problems and issues.

Joint Wills

What Are Joint Wills?

A joint will is a type of will that is jointly executed by two or more persons, usually a married couple, which combines the parties’ last will and testament. Under a joint will, the surviving party inherits the entire estate when the other party passes away. Between a married couple, the entire estate will usually go to the spouses’ children upon the death of the second spouse. Keep in mind that joint wills are different than joint and mutual wills, which contain reciprocal provisions that make the property distributions dependent on the other.

Legal Effects of Joint Wills

A joint will is a legal contract that cannot be changed or revoked by one party alone. The parties may revoke the will during their lifetime through mutual consent. However, once one of the parties passes away, the joint will cannot be revoked. Even if the surviving spouse remarries after the death of the other spouse, the terms of the joint will remain unchanged and the surviving spouse must comply with them. At Ascent Law, we really believe that having a will or joint wills if you are married is a vital part of estate planning and it should not be ignored or put off for another day.

Problems of Joint Wills

Joint wills are rarely used today because of potential problems and lack of advantages. Back in the day, joint wills were preferred over other types of wills because they saved time and additional labor. However, now that wills can be easily created on a computer, there’s no clear advantage to joint wills in most cases.

One of the biggest potential problems is that the surviving spouse is unable to change the terms of the will, regardless of the changed circumstances after the death of his or her spouse. For example, when the surviving spouse remarries another person and wants to leave some of the assets to his or her stepchild, the joint will prevents the surviving spouse to leave any part of the estate to that stepchild.

Another problem may arise if the surviving spouse wants to disinherit the child. Even if the spouses’ child abandons the family and stays disconnected with the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse still cannot disinherit the child without an approval of the deceased spouse.

Moreover, the surviving spouse may be tied up with the terms of the joint will for a long time. Say that the spouses got married when they were young and one of the spouses dies soon after their marriage. Now, the surviving spouse can be tied up with the terms of their joint will for decades.

Good Alternative to a Joint Will

A joint will isn’t the only way to transfer the estate to another person. If a married couple wants to make sure their children inherit everything after their deaths, the couple can set up a trust that contains the provisions of their wishes and restrictions. By setting up a trust, you are able to control who will manage the property for the benefit of your children, modify any terms of the trust, or entirely revoke the trust during your lifetime.

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have an estate issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Does a 14 Year-Old Child’s Opinion Matter in a Custody Battle?

The Supreme Court, District Courts as well as the Family Courts in the State of Utah give some deference and weight to the opinion of children.  This is an important part of child custody in Utah. This doesn’t guarantee that a 14 year old will get what he or she wants. As the children age, their opinion is given more weight. Most often any child over the age of 5 is given an attorney by the Court (Attorney for the Child “AFC”). That person will be telling the Judge and anyone who will listen the wishes of the child. If the child is over the age of 14, those wishes will most likely carry great weight in any custody battle.

The result is as follows: children are driving the bus. Children playing one parent against another. Children are empowered to make decisions that, most likely should have been left to adults. Nevertheless, two adults cannot make a decision as to which of them is a better parent or custodial parent, the child will most likely make that decision for them If the child is over the age of 14. Our firm handles almost 1,000 cases a year and only handles divorce and Family Law cases. We know how to support the child’s wishes and we have also successfully won cases by challenging both the child’s preference and the arguments of the AFC or Forensic.

When Pet Custody is an Issue

Many couples and families own beloved pets. The ties that bind humans to animals sometimes outlast those of human relationships. When that happens, sparks fly when one spouse decides Fido is leaving with him or her.

In a recent survey, the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), reported more than a quarter of its members noted an uptick in divorce actions involving pets. The survey revealed trends that include:

  • Top dogs: With 88 percent of disputes devoted to canine companions, dogs take the top spot in disputed pets, followed by cats, horses and, in one case, a 130-pound turtle.
  • Under consideration: Approximately 22 percent of respondents reported courts are increasingly allowing pet custody cases.
  • Heart to heart: Using pet ownership as a legal strategy during divorce heightens conflict and can extend the acrimony and expense of divorce.

Thoughts to consider when the ownership of your pet is pending during divorce include:

  • Is the animal a family pet?  Where can the children best enjoy the animal?
  • Can you share ownership of the animal?  If you share ownership, how are animal expenses to be paid?  Make decisions at the outset about significant medical expenses the animal may incur.
  • What type of ownership is really best for the animal?

In Utah, animal companions are considered property of the marital estate. While a decision in the best interests of the animal makes sense, it is not the legal standard at play when pet ownership is disputed.

Mother Fails to Provide Evidence of Enhancement in Relocation Case

A recent bid before the Appellate Division, Second District failed when a mother was unable to provide important information to support her desired relocation after a divorce.

In Christy v. Christy, appellant Lisa Christy sought relief from a family court decision that prohibited her from carrying out a proposed relocation with the children of her previous marriage.

In Utah, the court maintains authority over the residential location of minor children. Even if two parents agree on relocation, the action must be approved by the court. When relocation is contested, the court must decide the issue in the best interest of the children involved.

In this case, Ms. Christy and her former husband, Brian Christy, have three children. Since the entry of their Judgment of Divorce in June 2012, Ms. Christy has remarried and currently lives with her second husband and his three children. The children of Mr. Christy visit him three weekends per month.

Ms. Christy, an unemployed teacher, sought to relocate to Arizona to pursue a job offer. The job offer to Ms. Christy requires her to recertify as an educator in Arizona. The second husband of Ms. Christy is currently employed in Utah and does not have a job offer in Arizona.

In the earlier family court action, Mr. Christy succeeded in his argument to dismiss the petition of Ms. Christy to relocate. The appellate court agreed with him in January of this year for the following reasons:

  • No evidence of a potential salary was offered by Ms. Christy.
  • No evidence was offered concerning the wishes of the children.
  • No evidence was offered to indicate the lives of the children would be economically or emotionally enhanced in Arizona.
  • The relationship between the noncustodial parent and the children would be affected.

Free Consultation with Child Custody Lawyer

If you have a question about child custody question or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Probate Without a Will

When someone dies without a will, those left behind must figure out how to transfer or distribute the deceased person’s property. This often requires going to probate court. Despite the negative publicity probate receives for being complicated and expensive, there are benefits to going through probate without a will.

Probate Without a Will

First, let’s review some probate basics. When you die without a will, this is known as dying intestate. Each state has established guidelines on how property and other assets will be distributed when a person dies intestate. These guidelines are known as state “intestate succession” laws. These laws control how your estate in handled in probate court. Read on to learn more about how probate without a will works.

Benefits of Probate When There’s No Will

Look around your home or apartment, then imagine what would happen if you were suddenly gone. You died and didn’t leave a will. Who would clean your house and where would your belongings go? And what if your heirs started fighting over who kept your dog?

Probate court provides a final decision to many unanswered legal questions that arise when you die without a will. So here’s why you may want to go to probate without a will:

  • Cuts Off Creditor Claims

    : After someone close to your dies, the last thing you want is call from debt collectors. Depending on the laws of your state, beginning probate can reduce the time creditors can file claims to as few as three months.

  • Resolves Conflicting Claims to Property

    : Inheriting property doesn’t always bring out the best in people. Probate doesn’t guarantee heirs won’t litigate disputes over property. But intestate succession laws applied by the court to distribute property can give closure to some disputes. Generally, your heirs include your surviving spouse, siblings, aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews, and distant relatives. The order of who takes first in intestacy is governed by state law. When no relatives can be found, the entire estate goes to the state.

  • Transfers Title

    : Unless real property is held in a trust or some form of joint ownership, it typically needs to go through probate to transfer the name on the title.

What’s the Role of the Probate Court?

State courts typically contain a designated probate division, commonly called probate court. Its primary job is to oversee the process that lawfully resolves all debts, taxes and financial affairs of people who die. Probate court also ensures the remaining assets go to the proper people.

Probate court selects the estate administrator when you die without a will. Generally the surviving spouse is appointed. If there is not a spouse, or they decline, the court will appoint the next nearest relative. Some states have residency requirements for administrators, which can create serious issues for families that are spread across the country.

Starting Probate Without a Will

When a person dies, someone needs to do the work of closing out their estate. If you want to start probate without a will by serving as the administrator, you typically start by filing a petition in probate court. Here’s a step-by-step look at how to get the process going.

  • Step 1: Review the deceased person’s assets to see if the estate qualifies for a small estate probate exemption. You will need to establish a value to the estate and produce an itemized list of all property needing distribution.
  • Step 2: Determine in which county you’ll file probate proceeding. Generally, it’s the county in the state where the person lived. If they own a home, it may be the county where the home is located.
  • Step 3: Bring a certified copy of the death certificate to the courthouse and request forms to Petition for Letters of Administration. By filing this document, you’re asking the court to act as personal representative of the estate.
  • Step 4: Complete and file the form requesting administration. You should be prepared to provide the names and address’ of all living relatives.
  • Step 5: You’re required to let everyone know you’re petitioning for probate. You’ll need to publish in local newspaper or other forms designed to inform people that a Notice of Petition to Administer Estate. Family members will need notice sent to their homes. This serves as a Notice to all creditors to file their claims against the estate. Creditors usually have four months to file their claims.
  • Step 6: Your petition is granted unless another more suitable representative comes forward.

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have a business law issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Divorce Alternatives

Are you and your spouse having problems? Are you considering divorce? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may be surprised to learn that there are alternatives to traditional and often contentious divorce. For many couples who wish to separate, uncontested divorce is the answer.

Divorce Alternatives

Yet for others, the following alternatives are more appropriate:

  • Legal Separation

    If you and your spouse are having problems, but you are not ready for divorce, separation may be a more suitable option. Separation is also good for couples who wish to retain the financial and insurance benefits of being married.

  • Mediation

     One of the features that make mediation so attractive to couples who wish to divorce is the fact that it takes place in a relaxing environment, instead of a courtroom. Mediation also relies on the assistance of a third party mediator. This person helps couples stay focused on the issues at hand, but also acts neutrally. The process of mediation takes place over several short sessions where couples work at coming to mutually beneficial terms. Mediation is more cost-effective and less time-consuming than traditional divorce.

  • Collaborative divorce

     A large number of couples who wish to dissolve their marriage are turning to collaborative divorce. At first glance, it appears similar to mediation. It deviates from mediation by relying on a participation agreement. This agreement binds each spouse and his or her respective attorney from taking legal action. If the collaborative process fails, the legal counsel of each party must resign and each spouse must retain new counsel for litigation.

An annulment might also be an option if you qualify.

Understanding ‘Equitable Division of Property’ in Utah

Like in most other states, Utah law calls for the equitable division of marital property when a couple gets divorced. It’s important to note that “equitable” is not the same as “equal,” although it can be in some situations. The focus is on creating a property division arrangement that is fair, taking into account what each spouse contributed financially to the marriage and what each spouse needs to maintain a reasonable standard of living in the future.

Utah used to be a “common law property” state, in which the property owned by either spouse was distributed according to how the property was titled. If only one name appeared on the title, that person would receive the property outright.

An equitable division arrangement can be much more complex and takes into consideration a greater variety of factors. These include the following:

  •  The income of each spouse
  •  The property each spouse owned at the time of marriage and divorce
  •  Each spouse’s health and age
  •  One parent’s need to live in the family home or use property inside of it
  •  Either spouse’s potential lost pension, insurance or inheritance rights stemming from the divorce
  •  Whether the court awarded spousal maintenance
  •  Whether either spouse has a claim to marital property to which the spouse does not have the title
  •  The financial circumstances of each spouse coming out of the divorce
  •  The overall character of marital property (liquid versus non-liquid)
  •  Whether either spouse has purposefully wasted marital assets during the divorce
  •  Whether either spouse transferred marital property to other people or accounts in anticipation of divorce
  •  Any other factor the court believes to be relevant

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Estate Tax Law

Estate taxes are imposed by the federal government and some state governments on the transfer of a person’s property upon death. This is part of the area of Probate Law. Estate taxes can apply when the decedent has an estate plan such as a will in place, and they can also apply if the decedent dies intestate (meaning without a will or other form of estate plan). A number of states have passed laws requiring the recipients of real estate or personal property to pay taxes on the property that’s being inherited. Although these taxes focus on recipients, rather than on the decedent, they are nonetheless considered a form of estate tax. This section contains information and resources on estate taxes as they relate to estate planning and administration. For example, you’ll find a discussion about how to minimize the estate taxes a person pays, an article explaining gift tax laws, an overview of using life insurance to avoid estate taxes, and a link for consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney in your area.

Estate Tax Law

Estate Tax Background

According to the IRS, the estate tax is a tax on your right to transfer property at death. The federal estate tax, in its modern form, was enacted in 1916 and has gone through significant changes, including a temporary repeal in 2001. However, in 2011, the federal estate tax was re-implemented, although with a high threshold that currently stands at over $5 million (meaning that only those property transfers that exceed that amount trigger the federal estate tax).

Utah Estate Tax Attorney

Philosophically, some estate tax opponents question why property that belonged to you during life, and which presumably has already been taxed at the time of purchase, should again be taxed when you pass away. Estate tax opponents also ask why property that is obtained through a person’s efforts and hard work during life should be taxed simply because he or she passes away. On the other hand, supporters of estate taxes argue that these taxes help to reduce economic inequality, and that the revenue they generate help governments at various levels to pay for necessary public services.

The Basics of Estate Taxes

Note that some forms of estate tax are imposed directly on the decedent’s estate, while others focus on the recipients of the property. For example, in some states, estate taxes are imposed upon a person who receives property from the decedent, and the amount imposed can depend on both the value of the property being transferred and on the recipient’s relationship to the decedent. This is very different than the Orem City Code. As you begin to plan your estate, it’s important for you to know the basics about the federal and your state’s estate taxes, so that you make decisions that minimize the amount of tax that’s paid either by your estate or by your inheritors. Depending on the purpose or type of estate plan you create, you may be able to transfer money and other property while avoiding taxes such as the gift tax. For example, one type of estate plan allows a person to create an account dedicated to providing school tuition to another person. This type of account generally avoids gift taxes.

Get Legal Help with Estate Tax Law

It’s common to have questions about estate taxes, such as how to minimize your liability. It’s best to contact a qualified tax attorney who can answer your questions about estate taxes and help you create an estate plan that best suits your needs.

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have an estate issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Shared Custody

A recent report in the Washington Post indicates that more than 20 states contemplated implementing shared custody laws in 2017.

Shared Custody

Collaborative co-parenting agreements have become popular among divorcing couples over the last two decades, ending what had once been the typical “every other weekend dad” arrangement. State lawmakers are more frequently considering writing these types of co-parenting arrangements into law in the form of shared custody legislation. These bills would make shared custody arrangements a legal presumption, even if the parents disagree.

In Kentucky, for example, lawmakers passed a bill that makes joint physical custody and equal parenting standard in temporary custody orders while the divorce is being negotiated. In Florida, the state legislature approved a new bill to make equal time a presumption for child custody plans, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott. In Michigan, lawmakers are mulling legislation that would make shared parenting time the baseline for custody negotiations.

Why Shared Child Custody?

The recent push for joint custody arrangements is partially a result of years of lobbying by advocates for fathers’ rights, who argue men have been overburdened by child support obligations and too often feel “alienated” from their children. The National Parents Organization has been a player in the fathers’ rights movement, but also has a wider focus on children’s rights and overall parental equality.

Critics of these legislative efforts say they relax protections against abusive or controlling spouses, and also take some legal discretion away from judges who are responsible for determining what is in the child’s best interest in each case.

Considerations for Your Pets During and After Divorce

While many of us think of our pets as being almost like our children, the law certainly does not hold them in the same regard. Pets are handled just like other household possessions in the divorce process. However, because of the strong emotional bond between humans and their animals, determining who gets custody of your pets could be a contentious process.

Legal precedent on pet ownership

There have been some high-profile court cases over the years related to what happens to pets during and after divorce. A 1995 case in Florida received considerable publicity when an appeals court overturned a trial court’s decision to allow a woman visitation to her family dog, which was a premarital asset of her ex-husband. The appeals court declared the woman had no rights as a dog “parent,” as the animal is considered personal property

Many national animal rights advocates believe courts should take the best interests of the animal into consideration, just as they would with a child — even though animals do not have the same legal rights as human beings.

Tips for handling pets after divorce

Regardless of the arrangement you come to regarding pet custody, it is important to work to help your pets cope with the divorce. Just like children, some animals can display signs of stress after a divorce, although the symptoms can be more difficult to identify.

The following are some tips:

  • Always consider what is best for your pet, with factors such as who is in a better place to be able to care for the animal and who is better able to pay for pet-raising expenses.
  • Consider your children’s relationship with the pet; for this reason, pets often go where the children go.
  • If you have more than one pet, avoid separating animals that are bonded to each other.
  • Continue to spend a lot of time playing with your pets.

Free Consultation with Child Custody Lawyer

If you have a question about child custody question or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506